Do you pick up the phone when you receive a call from an unknown number? Considering that Americans receive an average of 28 spam calls per month, it would be understandable if you just let the phone ring. On top of all those phony calls, smartphone owners also receive an estimated 42 spam texts each month. And once you start receiving these messages, they’re unlikely to stop anytime soon: numbers that end up in spam databases often get sold and passed around to more scammers.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported $5.8 billion in losses due to fraud last year. That represents a massive 70 percent increase from 2020 as scammers typically target older Americans by using information about their personal lives against them. For example, in one scam a grandfather spent $6,000 on Target gift cards after he received a call from a man claiming to be their grandson who needed to be bailed out of jail. “What these people do is play on people’s emotions, they play on the fact that grandparents love their grandkids more than you can imagine, and all their logic will fly out the window,” said Irene Kenyon, whose father unknowingly sent the ransom to scammers.
Not only did this incident hurt the victim’s wallet, but it also took a toll on the mental health of everyone involved. Experts say that constant scam attempts can increase an individual’s stress to a point that then spreads throughout their family and social circle, straining their relationships and making an already bad situation worse. “Scam victims often suffer from a decrease in life satisfaction and are likely to have higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness,” said UCLA professor Mattew Mimiaga. To combat phone scammers, the FTC is considering restrictions on robotexts while cell phone carriers plan to implement a system that authenticates callers. Given how adaptable fraudsters tend to be, however, there’s a chance that such actions will do little to relieve Americans from the constant stream of scams.
- Why do scammers typically target older people in their fraudulent schemes?
- Do you think government regulators should do more to limit the number of scam calls and texts that Americans receive? Why or why not?
Source: Heather Kelly, “The Nonstop Scam Economy Is Costing Us More Than Just Money,” The Washington Post, July 13, 2022.